Belgravia Daycare Centre is bearing the financial burden of an on-going problem with burglaries and vandalism. Principal Shareen Isaacs says the school is 'really having a tough time'. It has been burgled virtually on a monthly basis for the past seven years, she says.
Although the centre is registered with the Western Cape Department of Education, it does not receive a subsidy and has to rely on school fees and fund-raising for its income.
During one incident, thieves cut a section of the prefab wall out to gain access to the office. They cut the alarm and telephone wires and threw rubbish across the floor.
In some instances, items such as gutters, bins and light bulbs were stolen, while other incidents displayed acts of blatant vandalism, with panels ripped out of walls and fences trampled to the ground. "When we first came to the premises, the break-ins happened almost every day. It's so sickening and I think that we are going to have to close this school down if the problem persists," Isaacs says.
Zerina Hendricks, treasurer of the centre's governing body, says vandalism and break-ins occur so often, that "there is not one solution to the problem".
"That is why we are trying to do fund-raising, like our High Tea later this month. Depending on how much money we get in, we will look at getting electric fencing around the school, and if we can afford to employ a security guard after hours, we will do so," she says.
She adds that the centre runs on a tight budget. "Maintenance costs a lot of money because we have to replace stolen equipment," she says. Inspector Ian Bennet from the Athlone Police Station says the police are working hand-in-hand with several crime-fighting agencies in the area. "We are sharing information and exchanging views on the crime situation in the area with them, but it is also important that the community comes forward to report crime," says Inspector Bennet. He adds that the police regularly hold meetings with residents in the area and they are trying hard to get the community's assistance in preventing crime.
"In cases such as the Belgravia Day Care Centre, it is not an issue of a lack in policing, but a lack of respect. Often it is not people from outside the community who commit these offences, but people who live nearby," he says. According to him, people in the area are not actively participating in crime prevention. "Crime prevention does not only start with the police. People must take it upon themselves to realise the importance of such an institution in the community and not vandalise it".
Belgravia Day Care Centre's High Tea will be held on 22 July 2006 in the Belgravia High School Hall. Tickets cost R50 per person For more information, phone Shareen Isaacs on 0216963461.